US Museums To Sell Off Art Treasures
America's art museums are poised to put up for auction huge amounts of artwork by some of the world's most revered painters next week, prompting accusations from critics that they are neglecting their role as cultural custodians in search of short-term financial gains.
Paintings by Picasso, Chagall and Modigliani will be sold by a variety of prestigious institutions, including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (Moma), the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Museum directors say they are selling works that have been gathering dust for years in order to replenish their stocks.
"It's only healthy," John Elderfield, the chief curator of painting and sculpture at Moma, told the New York Times. Moma hopes to sell 13 works, including works by Picasso, Henry Moore, and Theo van Rysselberghe's picture of a French Mediterranean harbour, at Christie's next month.
"When the collection was initially developed, Conger Goodyear, the museum's first president, said it would have the same permanence as a river - we know what direction it is going in, but it has to be fluid. That's how we operate. "The van Rysselberghe is very good," he said, by way of example. "But that early part of our collection we don't wish to develop."
With 43 works up for sale at Sotheby's the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is selling more than most and hopes to earn between $ 10m (£5.6m) and $ 15m. "We've taken a pretty aggressive look at the collection, something we don't do that often," said Nancy Thomas, the museum's deputy director. "It's more about the collection and the opportunity to improve it than it is about the market."
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